Trees cut in national forest to make illegal ski trails

Numerous primitive runs for skiing or snowboarding have been illegally cut in a national forest in northern New Mexico, including part of a wilderness area, with a federal investigator estimating that those responsible cut down approximately 1,000 trees. The Forest Service is trying to find those responsible for the cutting spotted this fall by hikers in a high-altitude area of the Santa Fe National Forest.

The cutting of the dozen or so runs hundreds of yards long may have been going on for several years, said Mike Gardiner Jr., assistant special agent in charge for law enforcement and investigations for the southwest region.

The illegal cutting would be a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a fine of $5,000, said Forest Service spokesman Mark M. Chavez.

The Forest Service previously has found illegal cutting or other work for trails for snowmobiles and mountain bikes elsewhere in the country.

Trees have been cut on both sides of a border of the Pecos Wilderness Area. The cutting is near Lake Peak and a privately-operated ski area on leased forest land.

“This is national public land and it belongs to everybody and nobody has the right to take it up themselves to do this kind of damage for their own narrow selfish interest.”

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